A neglected genius

Posted: April 19, 2018 in Mrinal Sen

In my School and College days, I was an ardent fan of Amitabh Bachchan. Scarcely would I miss any of his starrers, and not content with a single viewing, usually I ended up watching a Bachchan starrer a number of times. Around that time, quite naturally, I had an apathy towards the “other Cinema.” The “art cinema”, I found, was very slow paced, mostly shot in dark making the characters invisible, based on themes of poverty, hunger and famine and the treatment very confusing.

After College, I went to the University. My love affair with Bachchan continued. One day, quite by chance, I saw the film “CALCUTTA 71.” The experience was a mind-blowing one. This Bengali film, directed by Mrinal Sen, was a highly intense feature based on four short stories by eminent Bengali writers like Manik Bandopadhyay, Samaresh Basu and others, against the backdrop of turbulent times of those days and the Naxalite movement. It was my initiation into the world of Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghosh, Bhaben Saikia, Arinbam Shyam Sharma and other realistic ‘Indian Filmmakers.’ I developed an interest in their work and whenever I got an opportunity to see more of their works, I availed it.

I found that Mrinal Sen, with a career spanning five decades, had an impressive filmography of highly intense and masterly original works, arguably the finest specimen of Indian films ever made. I felt both disturbed and enlightened by watching his works like ‘Baisey Shravan’,’Bhuvan Shome’, ‘Padatik’, ‘Kharij’, ‘Ek Din Pratidin’, ‘Akaler Sandhane’,’Mrigaya’, ‘Khandahar’ and many more. His films have, quite naturally, been honored at the most prestigious International Film Festivals like Berlin, Cannes, Venice and others. His films have evoked a keen interest in all major film-making Countries.

Unfortunately, in his own country, he is one of the lesser known personalities, and hardly any of his masterpieces have been released on a big scale, or enjoyed a good run at the Theatres. In retrospect, even the Indian Govt. seems to be neglecting this genius who celebrated his ninetieth birthday recently. National Honors like Padma Vibhusan and a Bharat Ratna seem to be eluding, whereas personalities of lesser depths are being honored by the Govt. When will our National Committees honor such gifted people, whose numbers are dwindling with every passing day?

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